Hans N. Weiler, Professor of Education and Political Science Emeritus and the current Academic Secretary to the University, has had a distinguished career as an educator and administrator. In addition to his work at Stanford, Weiler served as the first president of Viadrina European University Frankfurt/Oder in Germany, and he also conceptualized the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and served as its first leader.
Weiler begins the interviews by clarifying that, although he began his career as a political scientist with a particular interest in Africa, he has had a foot in two camps at Stanford--the School of Education (later renamed the Graduate School of Education) and the Department of Political Science. He describes how he came to Stanford, citing the efforts of Professor of Education Paul Hanna, a visionary in international development education, and what Stanford was like in the mid-1960s. Weiler talks about Hanna’s role in the creation of the Stanford International Development Education Center (SIDEC) and the change in its leadership. He describes the interesting and significant work he did at SIDEC and the influential educators the center produced when its students went back to their home countries in Africa and Asia. He notes the connections that he developed in the field when he was on leave from Stanford for three years to direct the International Institute for Educational Planning, a UNESCO organization in Paris. He discusses his involvement with the Center for European Studies at Stanford and the challenge to area studies as a legitimate field.
Weiler recounts other career milestones, including two very critical years in the 1980s as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the School of Education, when he placed graduate student funding in Education on a firm footing for the first time. Another milestone was his gradual transition out of African studies and into European studies amidst post-colonial reverberations in Africa and the reunification of Germany in 1989. Weiler recalls his work in remaking higher education in what had been East Germany, which eventually led to his early retirement from Stanford and becoming the first president of Viadrina. There, during two terms and in the face of various challenges, he tried to apply lessons regarding best practices in university education and administration he had learned at Stanford and in his research.
Weiler goes on to talk about his retirement from Viadrina and taking on a unique task--the conceptualization and realization of the Hertie School of Governance, the first privately funded public policy institution in Germany. He recalls his decision, after nurturing the Hertie School to prominence, to come back to Stanford, and to the challenge/opportunity that he is still discharging, that of Stanford’s Academic Secretary. In addition to explaining his own role, Weiler discusses the origin and development of Stanford’s strong faculty governance system, the Faculty Senate, though he muses that it may be in need of redefinition at this point. He comments on the changes at Stanford since the 1960s, in particular the expansion of the university’s administration, the “gentrification” of the university, changing campus architecture, and the re-emergence of student activism.
Having shared recollections of his career, Weiler talks about what it was like to grow up in Nazi Germany, describes his initial pursuit of Jesuit priesthood, and recounts his experience in the newly independent countries of Africa in the late 1950s that culminated in his devotion to African studies.
Finally, Weiler compares Stanford and US higher education to European higher education, noting the ironic decline of liberal arts education in America at a time when it is gaining popularity in Europe and commenting on recent efforts in American postsecondary education.